Construction and demolition (C&D) is a big industry generating up to 600 million tons of waste and debris each year. To put this into perspective, C&D materials result in over 3 billion square yards of landfill each year. Not only is this just bad for the environment, it’s also challenging to manage cost-effectively.
The United States, like most countries, is in the midst of a construction boom, and the amount of C&D waste generated is increasing year on year. It’s time to make a change to better manage C&D materials and divert them from landfills.
Overall, the United States produces way too much waste, and C&D material constitutes a significant portion of this waste. So, how bad is the waste problem? In general, waste mismanagement is harming human health and destroying the ecosystem while adding to the climate change crisis.
Here are some startling statistics:
Despite C&D materials being highly recyclable, only about 70% of the waste stream is being recovered and recycled, which is still good news. The amount of landfill space saved by C&D recycling is equivalent to 4,300 acres at a waste depth of 50 feet!
Looking a little deeper, the majority of C&D materials are easily recovered, reused, and recycled. These materials include bulky, heavy materials such as:
Of these materials, wood waste is the second-largest component of C&D waste, after concrete, constituting between 20 to 30 percent of recyclable material. Demolition projects also generate a significant amount of salvageable building components such as doors, windows, and plumbing fixtures.
Recycling is an integral part of the waste hierarchy, taking second place to reuse. C&D recycling is the practice of salvaging and diverting any waste or debris generated as a result of construction and demolition away from landfills.
C&D recycling facilities are vital to the construction economy as they reduce the amount of C&D materials disposed of in landfills and incinerators. C&D recycling is becoming a critical component of the economy, supporting approximately 28,000 U.S jobs. The industry also constitutes a $7.4 billion vertical.
Other benefits of C&D recycling and reducing landfill disposal of C&D materials include:
The benefits of recycling are now widely recognized as members of the public are encouraged to participate in local recycling programs. Even though these efforts are focused mainly on components of the municipal waste stream, there’s a growing demand for recycling within the construction and demolition industry. There are two main reasons for this: the ever-increasing climate crisis and the cost savings associated with recycling.
C&D recycling facilities are becoming the new source of natural materials that would otherwise have been extracted from the earth. Not only does this save in mining costs, but recycled materials are also significantly less costly. For instance, the aggregate produced from crushing concrete can be used as a substitute for virgin rock.
Resource savings from C&D recycling also contribute to greenhouse gas reduction. Recycling wood lessens the demand for timber harvesting.
Another significant cost-saving aspect of C&D recycling is avoiding landfill disposal. Landfill fees have been on a steady rise over the last few years. For this reason, landfill disposal is becoming incredibly costly for construction companies. Every ton of debris that goes through C&D recycling facilities results in that much less material buried in landfills. Recycling results in short-term savings for construction companies and reduces the long-term costs associated with operating and maintaining landfills.
LEED certification is becoming a requirement in both public and private sectors. The U.S. General Services Administration now requires all Federally-owned buildings undergoing renovation to be LEED Gold certified. The same is true for all new installations.
C&D recycling has improved significantly in response to LEED thresholds by making construction waste planning a prerequisite for certification. To achieve LEED certification, you must achieve a certain percentage of waste diversion during construction, renovation, and demolition.
You can help divert C&D materials from landfill by reducing, reusing, and recycling. All these methods are encouraged under LEED best practices. Source reduction takes the highest priority as it reduces life cycle cost, energy use, and waste generation. Reuse and recycling are then used to sustainably manage waste once it has been generated.
LEED is edging the C&D recycling industry forward as it ensures environmentally responsible construction practices. As a plus, buildings that meet LEED requirements cost less to maintain and produce less waste over their lifetime.
Striving for LEED certification in California? Pacific Sanitation’s material recovery facility can help your construction project earn LEED credits for Construction Waste Management. Partner with us to achieve your landfill diversion targets and repurpose discarded materials for other valuable purposes.
Contact us today for all your C&D recycling needs. We provide services to clients in Sonoma County for both source-separated and commingled C&D materials.